Summary: When one runs aground on the Faith, injuring others within the flock, the appropriate response is to hand such individuals over to Satan.

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” [1]

Reading various translations, one could conclude that Paul is concerned that one’s personal faith may be wrecked. [2] While it is possible that one can distort their trust in God, it is doubtful that that is the Apostle’s intent when he wrote Timothy. What is not evident in our English tongue is that the Apostle used the definite article when he wrote of the disaster resulting from rejecting the character traits of which he spoke. I am cautious to state that just because the definite article is used does not of itself mean that Paul has in view the entire body of doctrine that defines the Faith. By using this literary device, Paul may mean us to understand the definite article as having a possessive sense. Either of these two understandings would indicate that these two men suffered personal shipwreck of their faith or the application of the Faith.

Nevertheless, it seems apparent to me that Paul is using these two men as a warning that some individuals may so distort the Faith that it causes them, and those who look to them, to be shipwrecked. That, also, is evident from even a casual consideration of history. A growing number of translations indicate that the translators understand this to be the Apostle’s intent. [3]

I am prepared to argue that Paul has in view the body of essential Christian doctrine. It is not so much that Hymenaeus and Alexander caused the Faith to be shipwrecked, but rather that they suffered shipwreck when they attempted to distort that Faith. To be certain, it is possible to mislead the unwary, causing them to stumble through distorting the truths of God. However, an individual who would distort truth will himself (or herself) be shipwrecked on the very truth he (or she) is twisting and perverting.

The message today examines Paul’s warning concerning two individuals who were even then experiencing shipwreck on the Faith of the True and Living God. Together, we will examine how they arrived at that position and what the consequences were for these two men. Understanding what they did and what resulted from their actions will serve as a warning to us to hold fast to the truth once for all delivered to the saints.

SOME THINGS SHOULD NEVER BE REJECTED — “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.”

I am intrigued that Hymenaeus and Alexander are charged as being heretical both through rejection of “faith and a good conscience!” The reference likely points Timothy (and us) back to something Paul wrote early in this letter. In 1 TIMOTHY 1:5, Paul has written, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Rejecting “faith and a good conscience” had injured these two men, and it harmed the church. Refresh your memories by considering what it means to have “faith and a good conscience.”

Studying that earlier verse, we discovered that the combination of a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith resulted in love. The Apostle stated that love was the goal of his command to foster these attributes. [4] He indicated that heresy and concomitant personal evil marked the lives of false teachers; he contrasted their lives to the presentation of sound doctrine and the godly life that indelibly marks the man of God. “Faith and a good conscience” will be a continuing theme in this particular letter. For instance, later in this letter, the Apostle will insist that deacons “must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” [1 TIMOTHY 3:9].

Therefore, we are assured that rejecting these aspects of Christian life leads to disaster. What is important for Christians to note is that faith and a good conscience, to say nothing of a pure heart, will ensure that believers will be forced to fight. Paul speaks of waging the good warfare; and that concept requires us to think about Christian warfare.

We live in a day in which many professing Christians argue that the believer in Jesus should never have conflict. It is perhaps the prevailing view of many churches that Christians should be docile, compliant, hail-fellow-well-met. In this view, Christians should never speak against any practise; they should be genial and non-judgmental about any action, however reprehensible it may be. In short, the message from many pulpits is that the Christian is to be “nice.” “Nice” is one of those innocuous terms that means pretty much whatever the speaker wants it to mean, though generally it means that they refuse to take a stand on much of anything.

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